A Short Story
Shade ... Copyright ©1995
||The buzz of 3-D Feelies flying
overhead warned him she was close. He nestled back in the thick alien growth
of the Tuma bushes and tried to disappear amongst the tangled thorny branches.
Touching just one against his naked skin meant instant, painful death. The
tips of the thorns were hollow ... filled with the most pungent acid known
|Ray risked a quick peek into his
multi-media visor plate before turning the power off again. If she was this
close it didn't matter whether her sensors found the leaking energy from
it or not.
They were down to the
last hour of the Olympics anyway... and to think they'd both been friends
up to this point. Even fought in the pairs section of the Olympics just a
few short months ago back on Earth. They'd been good together. Too good.
That's why they'd finally split. Each knew they had it in them to make it
on an intergalactic scale, and with the help of a growing rich brew of sponsors,
each one had.
||He smiled tightly as one of the
3-D Feelies swooped in for a close-up. His handsome face still showed some
of the ravages of being on the most deadly planet in the universe ... Hell,
it was expensive showing the intergalactic Olympics live here, but the sponsors
got their money's worth. One reason he'd made it this far, other than being
an excellent warrior with good reflexes, was he happened to be a consummate
actor as well.
Half the battle was just dealing with
the deadly planet. It made it interesting for the folks back home. He adjusted
his shoulder harness and moved slowly towards her back.
|He put his musings aside and sipped
on his air straw. His tank read only 45 minutes of air left before the naturally
deadly poisons of Hell's surface atmosphere would have him writhing on the
ground coughing out his lungs in a matter of minutes.
She had taken a moment to
rest in the small clearing. Her shoulders were slumped and he felt a sudden
stirring of compassion. Not too much, though. She'd taken a surprise attack
early on when they were dumped at base camp. His shoulder still ached from
the slice of meat she'd taken as a trophy with her. Just enough to surprise
the audience into wild applause and weaken him for the last encounter.
He wasn't strong enough to
use his bull male strength against her and win any longer. She'd taken care
of that. It was a game of craft and seduction now ... a woman's game. The
only weapon he had left was the sharp Stilo-knife grasped in his sweaty hand.
"Sarah ..." He bowed with sweeping
hand ... the ripple of applause in his feedback meter made him feel good.
Whomever won this final battle still had to battle against the planet to make
it back to base on time or ... even the sponsors wouldn't help bring them
out alive. It was part of the romantic aura of the Olympics ... man, or woman,
can conquer all, pitted against the audience's natural desire to see even
the mighty sometimes die while they remain alive.
She looked up at him
without lifting a finger. What was going on? Ray stood where he was, every
muscle tense, every nerve humming, ready for anything ... except this.
Sarah slipped under his first rush
... almost tripping him at the last moment. He rolled and came up short of
the Tuma bushes by a few scant inches and pushed up onto his feet ... circling
|Ray danced aside as Sarah came
to her feet in one smooth motion. Her teeth bared and flashing in the hot
reflected light of Hell's close sun. Everything appeared red and misty around
them. Any manner of alien fauna could be lurking ready to lunge at them for
a tasty bite. Being 80% water made them an enticing desert.
"Want to get married when
this is over?" He taunted. They were fighting like old times. Their 'history'
together had been recently popularized by the press. No-one knew how close
the news articles had actually come to the truth for a change.
"Honeymoon is over, sweet
thing ..." Her turn to smile. Her knife now at the ready. Her breasts heaved
in the sultry red light that never left this part of the world. She was a
magnificent creature. Her long mane of silky hair swept down over her like
the mane of a lioness.
Ray panted and acted like he'd twisted
an ankle, wondering what was keeping his sponsors from giving him the go.
This was the best chance he'd had yet to finish her off. Was it a set up?
He hadn't heard of payoffs at this level of the Olympics before ... but you
||They were both still sparring,
waiting for their sponsor's cue before getting really serious. The sudden
twist of the lens from one of the 3-D Feelies caught Ray's attention and he
leaped into the air, turning it into a somersault as one of Hell's Horny Beasts
charged underneath him.
Dust hid the effects of the attack
upon Sarah, making it hard for her to see the beast's daredevil lunge ...
She took one of the horns in the side ... before splitting the skull of the
Horny Beast with her air tank.
Sarah slapped a plasta-aid
on her side to stop the blood flow and winced back into fighting position,
obviously reeling. The medi-pad was already doing it's thing .. feeding her
blood stream with a rich supply of drugs, cauterizing the wound while holding
her split skin together. It made a good armor shield for that side of her
body and Ray switched the knife into his other hand as he approached her.
"That wedding date still open?"
He heard her laugh. The Horny Beast had gone on into the bush, scattering
a flight of Talon Birds up into the sky. Their sharpened beaks and claws were
as deadly as anything on Hell, but they got in their own way ... killing each
other off as first one got close to the presumed prey and then another, feeding
off each other. Giving the audience a bit of nature to ahh and ooh at in
"There's still time ..." Ray
muttered, surprised at the seriousness in his own voice. He meant it.
She took the moment, springing
at him with blood lust in her cry. The drugs pumping her up to an impossible
degree until only her olympic heart could bear the burden. "Go ..." He heard
the whisper from his own sponsors and met her ... testing her strength ...
it would give out quickly with only the drugs to keep her going.
His fingers caught hers and
twisted, wrenching her against her wound and driving her to her knees, but
she was quick ... she butted him hard where it would do the most damage ...
between his thighs.
"That wasn't lady like ..."
He heard the announcer's laughter, and Ray stepped back once more, trying
to stop the rigid spasms. She lunged with her knife and back lunged again,
pushing him backwards towards the thorns.
He gripped her knife arm with both
hands, dropping his own weapon as he lifted her over his head and threw her
rolling to the side of the Horny Beasts charge. No time. He used his momentum
to fling himself to the ground ... one chance in Hell ... his hands and feet
sliding through the dust and pushing at the Horny Beast as it snorted ...
unable to stop it's plunge. Ray lifted and kicked ... sending the ugly animal
up into the air, the remaining birds darting down and eating it alive before
it landed ... it's vulnerable stomach torn open, and intestines spilling
into view ... driving the birds into a quick fevered pitch of war with each
other for the spoils.
||The 3-D Feelies were all buzzing
like flies overhead, turning the sky dark with their shadows.
"Watch out, Sarah. Horny
Beast!" He shouted. It was back in play again, but he didn't know if she
would listen to him or not. Sanity wasn't anywhere on her pretty face at
the moment. He didn't have room to move and would have to take the charge.
She was gone. Ray lifted himself
up ... seeing his air tank had taken a rock and the hiss of air meant even
if he won, he probably wouldn't make it back to home base.
He felt the knife against
his throat as Sarah stepped up silently behind him. "Thanks, sport ..." She
whispered. "Good show ... but now it's time to finish this don't you think?"
Ray waited ... steeling himself
for what had to happen next. "Couldn't happen to a nicer lady." He grated,
somehow it was still worth it, knowing he could have taken her and hadn't.
Dying wasn't such a hard thing to do ... people did it all the time, and usually
did it the first time quite well. It's what you died for that mattered. That's
what being in the Olympics had taught him. He would have died for the money
and glory before this day. Now it was different.
|"I love you, Sarah ..." He smiled
up into the 3-D Feelies floating above him as she drew the knife across his
throat ... the words never leaving his thoughts.
Revised: March 11, 1999
Copyright ©1999. All rights reserved